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Buffs fall short in semifinal upset bid

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POSTED May 25, 2017 1:58 a.m.

SACRAMENTO — Manteca was a hit, a pitch or a defensive play away from taking down the top-seeded team in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs for a second straight year.
The No. 4 Buffaloes upset Christian Brothers 4-1 to force a rubber match in the best-of-three semifinal Wednesday at Dan McAuliffe Memorial Ballparks. Christian Brothers rebounded in the nightcap with a 4-3 victory, taking advantage of two unearned runs in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Manteca coach Neil MacDannald was far from disappointed. His club ended the Falcons’ 17-game winning streak and made the ninth-ranked team in Northern California, according to MaxPreps, earn its spot the title round.
“We ask them each time out to leave it all out here and they did that,” MacDannald said. “Obviously when you’re playing a team as talented as them those miscues will come back to bite you, but I couldn’t be more proud of the effort. All the guys in that dugout left it out here and that’s all you can ask them to do.”
Christian Brothers (28-2) took the series opener 8-4 on Saturday. The Falcons avenged last year’s section championship loss to Manteca, which swept then No. 1-seeded Vista del Lago in the semifinals en route to claiming its second banner in three years.
The Falcons of Sacramento will face Valley Oak League champion and second-seeded Oakdale (25-6) in the winner-take-all finale Monday at Tony Zupo Field in Lodi. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.
“They were a really good team last year and they’re real good again this year,” Rich Henning said. “It just gives us a chance to continue playing great opponents. That’s a very competitive team and now we look forward to playing Oakdale. I’m sure we’ll have our hands full with them, too.”
After an error-free Game 2 for Manteca, it committed four in the “if” contest with two costing the Buffaloes. Andrew Taylor was able to reach third on a throwing error, and Rudolph Mendoza pushed the Falcons ahead for good with a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning. Diego Black then plated the needed insurance run from third thanks a botched pickoff throw.
Manteca (20-9) made things interesting in the end. Ferrin Manuleleua, who finished 3 for 6 overall with an RBI, drilled his second double of the day to lead off the top of the seventh. Pinch-hitter Kenji Breitenbucher followed with a four-pitch walk, and Alex Gouveia reached on an error to load the bases with one out. Kyle Rachels knocked in the final run of the series with a sac fly to center field, and Christian Brothers relief pitcher Jacob Tucker induced a groundball to end it.
“These games were both really close and could have gone either way,” Henning said. “We were fortunate to have come out on top in the second one.”
Earlier Wednesday, Manteca managed to get key knocks against the Falcons’ southpaw ace Tanner Cunha (six strikeouts, two walks, seven hits) and broke away with a three-run sixth for a 4-0 lead. Joel Olmos (2 for 5, three runs overall) ignited the rally with a double to right, and Zach Chamberlain came through with a two-RBI single. Matt Ender capped it off with an RBI hit of his own.
Manteca freshman Ryan Ward pitched into the seventh, finishing with three strikeouts against four hits and five walks. Andrew Brunn faced five batters and closed it out.  Black drew a bases-loaded walk for Christian Brothers’ lone run.
The Falcons had some loud outs throughout the first game and left 12 runners on base. In fact, they left a runner stranded on third base in 10 of the 13 innings for the day.
“We left a lot of runners on, as did they,” Henning said. “They were able to make some key pitches. Their two (starters) pitched great games.”
Gino Campiotti (four strikeouts, three walks, seven hits) got the nod in the series finale for Manteca and fared well in what was just his fifth start of the season. Rachels pitched a perfect sixth in relief.
Manteca had opportunities early to put up crooked numbers. Gouveia drilled a one-out triple in the first inning but was left stranded. The Buffaloes then loaded the bases to start the third but could only muster a single run provided by Campiotti’s grounder to third.
“Hats off to them for making the plays and doing what it takes,” MacDannald said.
Just having the chance to get into the final is an accomplishment for Manteca considering it only had two starters — Gouveia (sophomore) and Rachels (junior) — back from last year’s championship squad. Only four players graduate, two of them starters, and the Buffaloes will be reinforced by members of the program’s VOL championship sophomore team.
“We lose some key dudes, for sure, and they’re going to be missed,” MacDannald said. “But we have a lot coming back and hopefully the sting of this will be enough for them to want to take that next step and get to another title game.”

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